Diane Ní Chanainn belongs to a family in which music and song have always been central. It was there on the hearth in both her parents' families. Diane learned song and instrumental music from an early age, learning the fiddle from the great Francie Mooney, an instrument she still plays. Like her mother, Diane's daughter Kelly also loves to sing the old Gaelic songs. Diane won first prize in traditional women's singing at the annual Irish language arts festival, an tOireachtas, in 2015. For some years now, she has been studying the songs of her own area and is very interested in them. Some songs are very popular and sare among the most often performed by local singers. Other songs are, however, more rarely heard. These are often local songs or unusual local versions of songs known elsewhere.
Diane's mother, Anne, is from Mín Lárach, one of the core areas where Irish remains an ordinary vernacular for a majority of those who live there. Her father John comes from the hills, Mín na Craoibhe, near the base of Errigal, and is well known locally as a member of the group the Clubmen. Diane's version of 'an Draighneán Donn' hails from Tory Island. Tough beautiful, this setting of the air is relatively unknown.
The Donegal Gaeltacht has seen a growth in interest in music and song recently and this renaissance has increased community interest in the language accordingly. Their loyalty to language is fortified when they see one of their own on stage promoting it.
As well as being an artist, Diane works in her family's business, the Gweedore Bar and Restaurant in Falcarragh. The bar functions almost as a community centre for the Irish language events in the area.
- Lillis Ó Laoire
1. Malaidh Chró Luí
2. Cnoc na Naomh
3. Úna Bheag na hÁite & Na Seomróga Feoite
4. Lough Erne's Shore
5. A Mháithrín Dhílis
6. Bainín Mhín an Leá
7. Níl sé 'na lá
8. Broom o' the Cowdenknowes
9. An Draighneán Donn
10. Geaftaí Bhaile Buí
11. Mountains of Pomeroy
12. Toraigh Álainn
A most interesting and enjoyable CD, which grew on me surprisingly quickly, and for reasons that seemed unlikely. Nine songs as Gaeilge are joined by three in English; all are traditional, and yet all are sung (and accompanied) in a very contemporary style. This could easily be somewhat off-putting if insensitively or ham-fistedly done, but in all cases it's carried off with style, confidence and ability.
Diane's singing has led her to accolades at an tOireachtas, and her familiarity with her North West Donegal tradition is the result of long-time family immersion in the music, plus a good deal of research into the subject - including the songs of Tory Island, that intriguing cultural outpost off the north coast. There echoes of other singers who've drunk from the same well; the Ní Dhomhnaill sisters, Éamonn Mac Ruairí, even (stylistically) Connie Mhary Mhicí Ó Gallachóir. But there's something else about her voice - a suggestion of Dolores Keane. In any company, those names represent quality, and Diane has a quality that's uniquely her own.
This is accentuated by the accompaniments, produced and in many cases performed by Manus Lunny, augmented by the pipes and flute of Michael McGoldrick, among others. On one track, she's joined on vocals by another of the area's great singers (and song scholars) Lillis Ó Laoire.=; it's an interesting Tory version of 'An Draighneán Donn', sung as a male/female conversation, and together with the English language 'Lough Erne's Shore' (which is stunning), formed particular points of interest. Old songs for the 21st century - buy it, you won't regret it.